Countdown begins in Battle for Foyle

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Counting in the battle for the six Foyle Assembly seats is due to get under way within hours in one of the most keenly followed battles of the election.

All ballot boxes for the constituency were returned before 11pm last night, within an hour of the last votes being cast, and the verifying of the papers is expected to get under way at 9am before the count commences.

The Foyle Arena is hosting the count for both the Foyle and East Derry constituencies.

There has been national attention on the situation in the six-seater in Foyle since former Mid-Ulster Sinn Fein MLA Martin McGuinness announced he would be transferring to stand in his native Derry, going head-to-head with recently crowned SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

Forecasters are predicting a closely run contest between the two big nationalist parties.

One seat is expected to go to a unionist candidate, with Gary Middleton of the DUP hoping to retain his seat and going up against former party colleague and now Independent candidate Maurice Devenney, as well as the UUP’s Julia Kee.

All eyes however will be on the sixth seat for Foyle, with Sinn Fein bidding to take three seats and become the largest Assembly party in the constituency, a role historically held by the SDLP.

The two big parties aside however, there is also a raft of high profile independent and other party candidates have also thrown their hats in the ring and are in contention for the sixth seat.

People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann is among the 16 candidates standing, alongside well-known Independent candidate and welfare advisor Kathleen Bradley and Independent candidate and local GP Dr Anne McCloskey, among others.

The sixteen candidates standing in Foyle and hoping for electoral success today are: Independent Kathleen Bradley; Independent Maurice Devenney; SDLP Gerard Diver; NI Conservatives Alan Dunlop; SDLP Mark H. Durkan, SDLP Colum Eastwood; Green (NI) Mary Hassan, UUP Julia Kee; CISTA John Lindsay; People Before Profit Eamonn McCann; Sinn Féin Raymond McCartney; Alliance Chris McCaw; Independent Dr. Ann McCloskey; Sinn Féin Martin McGuinness; Sinn Féin Maeve McLaughlin; DUP Gary Middleton.